Easy, budget friendly rice meals!

Tonight I’d thought I’d show you two simple rice dishes. The first one is mushroom garlic rice. This was the first time I’ve made it and it turned out pretty well. It made a great side dish and if you wanted it for a main, I’d probably add some bacon or tofu for a vegetarian option. The second one I just stumbled on the other day when I forgot to make lunch for work and just threw some stuff together!

What’ll you need for the mushroom garlic rice; 8 roughly chopped mushrooms, 2 diced garlic gloves, 1 thinly sliced spring onion, 2 to 2 ½ cups of chicken stock, 1 cup of rice and fresh parsley, salt and pepper. I used a packet of pre cooked microwave rice with a quarter cup of uncooked rice. I didn’t have enough uncooked rice, but it turned out perfect.

Roughly chop the mushrooms and dice the garlic

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Melt some butter in a pot over medium heat; add the mushrooms, garlic and spring onion to the pot and cook until soft and the liquid has evaporated.

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Stir in 2 cups of chicken stock and rice. As it cooks you may want add more stock if it gets too dry.

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Add the chopped fresh parsley and season with salt and pepper.

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Reduce heat, cover and cook for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. You’ll know it’s done because it will be thick and the rice will be soft.

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The second one is a very quick one! You’ll need: Spring onion, garlic, capsicum, 1 cup of frozen peas and corn, 1 packet of precooked microwave rice, oyster sauce, kecap manis and soy sauce.

Thinly slice spring onion, finely dice garlic and capsicum and add to large bowl.

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Add frozen peas and corn and rice and stir to combine

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Next drizzle over oyster sauce, kecap manis and a small splash of soy sauce and mix to combine.

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I keep it in the bowl and cover with glad wrap and place in the fridge. The next day (or whenever, because I take it to work for lunch) put in Tupperware container and when it comes to eat, just microwave for 1.5 minutes and it’s ready to go! See easy!

I cooked these because this week was on a super tight budget, you can get about 3 servings out of each dish and spend less than $25 all up. Do you have any quick and easy rice dishes, please share them with me!

Time for a cuppa!

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My favourite teapots and cup and saucer!

There’s nothing like after a long day sitting down with a nice cup of tea. I read a study which showed that not only drinking tea but the thought of it and putting the kettle on can relax it. They did a study where they put a group of people in a stressful situation, half were given water to drink before and the other half tea before going in. The people who had water were 25% more stressed after the test and the drinkers entered the test calmer than the water drinkers.  Personally I find a nice cup of tea very relaxing.  I prefer black earl grey tea with no added sweeteners. The only time I sweeten tea is when I’m sick and it’s coupled with some Vegemite toast!

Doing a search online for the health benefits of tea there were some that appeared in every search. 1: It’s high in antioxidants; these antioxidants help our bodies to protect themselves from aging and the ravaging effects of pollution. It can also help to protect against all sorts of cancers, including, breast, colon, colorectal, skin, lung, esophagus, stomach, small intestine, pancreas, liver, ovarian, prostate and oral cancers. Obviously don’t reply solely on tea for miracle benefits, but it can aid in protecting against these things.

2: It may also lower your risk of heart attack and stroke. It can help keep your arteries clean, smooth and clog free!

3: Tea and depression. I have read a few different things stating that tea can help to ease depression symptoms. I suffered depression for quite a few years and can honestly say that I never felt sad when I drank tea. I always found tea to be soothing. Maybe because during that time some of brighter days were spent with my mum and tea was always involved.

There is so many studies out there about tea and it’s health benefits I was amazed.  So what’s the best way to get the most out your tea? Whether you drink green tea or normal tea, don’t pour boiling water on it, once the kettle has finished boiling leave it for a minute and then pour it. Using boiling water can actually burn the tea leaves. Try going without adding sugar. If you need sweet tea, use some honey instead or a natural sweetener like stevia.

Also try to swap to black tea. There are lots of studies out there now about the negatives effects of dairy on our bodies and the less you have of it the better. Shop around, find a tea and brand you like, it’s like the ultimate comfort knowing you are having something you love. Use your fine china, I love using my favourite tea pot and dainty cup and saucer. It forces me to take time out and appreciate what I’m drinking and always walk away feeling better about myself!

Fresh Bread with Butter!

I decided to attempt making some beer bread. I have never made bread before but this recipe was very simple and I have wanted to try to make this for a while now. It tasted pretty good too, not to mention the house smelled wonderful. Is there any left? Nope, all gone! Here goes!

What you’ll need; 3 cups of sifted self-raising flour, ¼ cup sugar, 350 ml of beer (approx. 1.5 cups) ½ cup of melted butter, you don’t need to use the full amount of the butter..

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First pre heat the oven to 190 degrees and sift the flour into a large bowl.

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Add sugar.

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Add beer and stir to combine into dough. You may need to sprinkle some more flour if the dough is too sticky.

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Pour mixture into a loaf tin, pour over melted butter and bake for 1 hour, I also sprinkled sesame seeds on top of mine. After 1 hour remove the bread from the oven and cool for at least 15 minutes. I sliced mine and served with butter and a slice of cheese. I don’t have a loaf tin so I used a casserole dish; I think I might need to invest in one if I want to keep making bread.

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Next time I make it, I might add some garlic and finely diced onion, along with some more salt and pepper and serve at a BBQ with some nice cheese and wine. It was certainly a very tasty home made bread

Meow!

I’m sitting here with a drink reflecting on an awesome weekend with some great friends, food and drink. Most memorable bit was when Cameron went to light the BBQ and it was out gas (despite me asking a few hours earlier if the gas bottle was full), we could have cooked everything on the stove, but his solution was to take the massive gas cylinder that supplies our stove and hook it up to the BBQ. Problem solved! 😀

I thought I take you through the cake that I made which was a much better improvement than the Oreo cake last year for my friend’s birthday. This year’s theme was Crazy Cat Lady; the room was full of cat decorations. I made a basic vanilla butter cake with a caramel chocolate frosting and then covered in fondant. The actual cake was rainbow and shaped into a couch with a lady sitting on it with lots and lots of cats!

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I didn’t take lots of photos of the process because I forgot and I was stressed because I left it to the day of the BBQ to make something I had never done before. For the recipe it’s self just Google a basic butter cake, there are heaps out there and very easy to do. To make it a rainbow cake, I divided the batter between four bowls (One bowl for each colour), I used yellow, red, blue and green food dye. Add the colour two to three drops at a time and mix, keep adding until you reach the desired intensity. Then after all bowls have been coloured, add then to the cake tin and bake as normal. I just poured mine in and where ever it went was where it would stay, however you can use a knife to create a swirl pattern if you like.

Once the cake had cooled completely, I made a caramel, chocolate chip butter cream. To do this I used half a tin of condensed caramel top n fill, 60grams of softened butter and 2 and half cups of sifted icing sugar. I added the caramel and butter to the bowl and used a beater to combine the ingredients, then I added the icing sugar half a cup at a time and placed it in the fridge.

While the frosting was in the fridge I cut up the cake and assembled something that looked vaguely like a couch! I took the frosting out, beat it once more and added in 2 tablespoons of shaved chocolate. I used the frosting as a glue to stick the pieces together and then cover the entire cake with it.

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I place it back in the fridge while I rolled out the fondant. I used store bought fondant because I’m not that clever and can’t make it myself yet. Once I rolled my fondant into a large sheet, I took my cake out and carefully laid the fondant over the top and pressed in the corners and edges and smoothed it out.

Using a skewer, I carved some lines in to make it a bit more realistic and used edible pearls to add some more detail. The cushions are just a thin slice of cake covered in fondant.

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Then we move onto the final bit, the cat lady and the cats. I made these a few days earlier from bakers clay, which is basically, flour, water, salt and oil. Almost like playdoh. I shaped them into the figurines, baked them and painted them with a base coat of food colouring extended with vodka. I used food colouring and vodka because these parts would touch the cake. I added detail with some non-toxic acrylic paint, those parts didn’t not touch the cake.

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It might sound easy enough, but if I could do it all over again I’d use more frosting and fondant and pretty much just slow down and take my time. But considering it was a bit rushed, I think it turned out pretty well. Have you ever tried to make a “fancy cake”? I’d love to know!

You snooze you lose!

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Image from 1zoom.net

I turned 27 on Monday and am having a BBQ with friends this coming weekend and it got me thinking of course of the food that I was going to serve. BBQ’s are always easy when it comes to feeding a lot of people, all you really need to do is make a few salads to go with the meat and have some nibbles like chips, crackers, cheese and dips.

I love making dips, they’re so easy do to and most of the time, work out much cheaper and healthy than buying the ones from the supermarket no matter how tasty they are. Have you ever had one of those spur of the moment get togethers, where people come round in the afternoon for a few drinks? Most of the time you don’t have time to get to the supermarket to grab some food and tidy the house.  You’ve got two choices here, you can go to the supermarket, get some food, whip it out of the packets so it’s ready to serve and then do the embarrassed apology “Excuse the house, ran out of time.” With an awkward giggle and you know they are secretly thinking “Wow it is a mess” and then go on to enjoy yourself.

Or you can quickly tidy the house (by tidy I mean grab everything and shove it in an unused room or cupboard). Then using the food that you already have, quickly whip up some super delicious dips! I always keep tins of chickpeas, broad beans or four bean mixes in the cupboard. Using a handheld blender, I blend these into a paste with a little bit oil, and then throw in a glove of garlic, a tomato, capsicum, ground turmeric and salt and pepper. You can even add a bit of plain Greek yogurt to make it extra creamy. If you don’t have any beans don’t stress! Blend a tomato, onion, garlic, baby spinach, parsley and capsicum, if you do want it creamy try putting in an avocado.

The best thing about these dips is you can pretty much use any vegetables that you have. As long as you season them then you can’t really go wrong. So you’ve made your dip, what are you going to have them with?  Chop up some carrots and celery to dip with, or if you have bread, squash a couple of slices flat and cut into quarters, drizzle some oil and add a bit of salt and pepper and place under the grill until golden and crunchy! Super easy and super quick!

My favourite homemade dip, which my mother makes the best, is cream cheese and hot smoked salmon. All you do is blend these two together to make the dip; if you want to get fancy you can even add some dill! Whenever my mum makes it, I make sure I place myself right in front of it and pretty much it’s a “you snooze you lose” situation. I’m eating it!

Now you can sit back and relax with your friends and have drink, hoping they don’t see the massive pile of stuff threatening to burst out of the cupboard! Do you have any recipes for homemade dips that are always a hit? I’d love to hear them!

Cottage Pie? Shepherd’s Pie?

Sometimes I get in to the habit of mince means spaghetti. It’s just so easy to do, however, it’s cold outside and I’m so over pasta it’s not funny. I thought I’d show you my version of a cottage pie or shepherd’s pie or whatever you want to call it! It’s so easy to make, it’s super tasty and you can pretty much throw in any vegetable you want. It’s also a great way to use up any vegetables that need to be cooked. I tend to make large amounts of these sorts of foods because they freeze really well and are great for lunch.

Here’s what you’ll need:

Beef mince, garlic, onion, carrots, zucchini and spring onion, I also added (which are not in the photo) peas, corn, broccoli, Worcestershire sauce, tinned tomatoes and 2 cups of stock. For the top you’ll need potatoes, depending on the size of the dish, I used 6 to 7 small to medium potatoes in the big dish and it probably works out to 1 potato per ramekin.

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Start with some oil in the pot and brown your mince.

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At about 3 quarters cooked add in garlic, onion and spring onion.

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When onion softens, add in remaining vegetables and cook for a further 5 minutes stirring occasionally.

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Next add in tinned tomatoes, stock and 4 tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce. Stir and season with salt and pepper, you can also add any herbs you want. Cover and cook for 45 minutes, during this time the liquid will reduce and thicken, make sure to stir occasionally.

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At about the 25 minute mark, start preparing your potatoes. Peel and chop, place in a pot of water with a pinch of salt and bring to the boil. By the end of the 45 minutes it should be ready to mash and assemble.

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Preheat oven to 180 degrees. Place meat mixture into oven proof dish pie dish and using a fork add the mash potato to the top and spread around. Sprinkle with some cheese and place in oven until cheese has melted and is just turned golden brown!

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Before oven

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After!

Now for a couple of things that you can try, but if you don’t it won’t be the end of the world! I find a dash of good quality balsamic vinegar added to the meat mixture adds another flavour element to the mix. Also if it’s not salty enough for your liking, add a small dash of soy sauce, it also adds to the rich colour of the mixture.

Look at you go, now you’ve made a pie! People have surely got to be impressed with that!

Baby food taste test

I was at work the other day preparing food for a baby, as I opened the jar and tipped out the food into a bowl, I watched this gelatinous mush plop into the bowl. It literally plopped in, I thought to myself “ Eww that looks foul, I wonder what it tastes like.” Then it occurred to me that I should do a taste test of baby food and see what we’re actually feeding these kids. I didn’t try her food, I thought I would wait.

So I enlisted the help of my friend Amanda (She didn’t know what she had coming!), I went out and selected 6 jars of baby food. I didn’t spend much time looking at the ingredients because I wanted it to be a relatively blind taste test. I covered the labels and named them 1-6. We looked at the texture, smell and of course taste. Well we were definitely surprised, maybe not pleasantly..

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So here’s how it went.

Number 1: Pumpkin, Potato and Beef by Only Organic

Opening the jar we saw an orange mash that had a film of oil on top. The smell of the food was the first thing that hit us, it was like a mixture of rotten egg and a really bad fart. We braved the smell and tasted. It was awful! We picked up a strong potato taste, herbs, rice and some sort of meat. We couldn’t pick the meat but it seemed to have a fishy after taste. The texture was bad as well, it was watery and lumpy, it sounds crazy but you could definitely taste a processed flavour. We both were expecting a home cooked flavour but ended up with something that smelled like a rotten egg fart and dog food. Neither of us would feed that to another human! Rating: *

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Number 2: Pumpkin, Potato and Beef by Heinz 100% Natural

When we opened this jar, luckily there was no oily film but it also had that same smell of dog food. Needless to say after the first one we were very reluctant to try it. It had a much smoother texture and slightly sweeter. We could taste sweet potato and a meaty taste. It was palatable and in an emergency we would feed it to a baby. It wasn’t good but it was ok. Rating ***

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Number 3: Peas and Zucchini by Heinz 100% Natural

Once again this one smelled like the previous two, Amanda and I weren’t looking forward to this watery green looking one. Straight away we picked the taste of peas but could not identify the other flavours. We tossed around basil or herbs but couldn’t pick it. Neither of us tasted any meat. It was still pretty horrible and would not feed it to a baby. Rating **

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Number 4: Pasta Bolognese by Baby Macro

This one came in a squeeze packet, I think the best part of this one was when Amanda tried to smell it and wasn’t expecting anything to come out when she lightly squeezed it which resulted in smearing of food on her clothes.  This one had a strong smell of tomatoes and herbs. Straight away we picked up a Bolognese taste. The texture was ok and in an emergency we would feed it to a baby. Rating ***

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For some reason this one kept uploading upside down

Number 5: Fruit Muesli by Only Organic

This one smelt straight away of apples and cinnamon, however it looked like ground garlic! We had a slight difference on opinion on this one. We both picked up the taste of apples and cinnamon; however it took us a few minutes to pin down another flavour. The only thing we could come up with was under ripe banana. I found it had an odd after taste of plants. It had a smooth texture but had apple chunks. Neither of us picked up that there was muesli in it. Rating: Me: ** Amanda ***

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Number 6: Apple, Banana and Peach by Rafferty’s Garden

This one looked like custard and smelt like pears. We were so surprised with it flavour. It was divine. It has a silky smooth texture and we could taste the banana and couldn’t decide between apple or pear. Turns out it was the peach that was throwing us off. This was only one we actually finished and came to the conclusion that we would buy this for ourselves as well as any future child. Rating *****

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I can’t show you what it looked like because we ate it all

What did we achieve by this taste test? Having never actually tried baby food as an adult I was so curious to know what they tasted like. Would I do it again? No way! When a baby comes into my life I think I’ll be making my own food. I know people can run out of time to make it, but it works out much cheaper than buying jars of it, and frankly if I wouldn’t eat it then I’m certainly not feeding it to my child.

A huge THANK YOU to Amanda for helping me today, I think you deserve a drink! Now I know I can call on you to try all sorts of weird or wonderful foods (insert evil laugh here)! Let me know if you have any suggestions for foods that you would like me to taste test!

Mmmm bleached cotton balls

Photo by Shutterstock.

“My diet starts as of Monday!” How many of us say this on a regular basis? I’m guilty of saying every week. I think I say it now so I can gorge myself on food over the weekend, not that I ever start the diet at all.

We’ve all been guilty of dieting, mine start out all well and good and by lunch the next day I’m starving and give up.  I know I don’t stick to them because I know deep down that fad diets don’t work in the long run. They might for a little while, but rapid weight losses from these diets usually result in water loss.  Our bodies go into starvation mood when it’s denied proper nutrition and portions. This has been happening for centuries.

Back when we roamed the land to hunt for our food, food would be scarce so our bodies would go into starvation mood, which meant that it stored as much of the food as it could as fat for our bodies to feed off during famine. The problem with modern day is that we have an abundance of food in the western world yet we diet and cause this to happen. Our bodies are doing what just comes naturally to them.  When you restrict your food your body will feed off fat reserves, but when you start eating again it will replenish the fat reserves to prepare for the next famine.

This got me thinking about some of those crazy diets fads that are out there. They actually aren’t that hard to find.  The first one I found was the cotton ball diet.

Apparently you eat them before each meal as they’re meant to be high in fibre, curb cravings and prevent over eating….Seriously?  I think you have a screw lose if you think this is a viable option for dieting. I wonder about the person who tried this, did they think “mmm those bleached cotton balls are looking mighty tasty” Can you just image all the digestive issues this would cause, as well as blocking of essential nutrients being absorbed into our bodies. What about what happens when they come back out! I know I wasn’t the only one who had that thought pop into their head!

This one we’ve all heard of, The Tapeworm diet! Let’s all ingest beef tapeworm eggs so we can have a parasite growing in us to eat all the food we eat and then it can poop it back out again inside our digestive track! This one has been around since early 1900s, apparently when you’ve lost the desired amount of weight you can just take a medicine to kill the tape worm. Not only does this lead to all sorts of deficiencies but what goes in must come out. Some of these tapeworms can get to massive lengths and you’re going to have to poop that thing out!

Any sort of diet that requires long term liquid only. Seriously? Not only does it cause extra unnecessary bowel movement, but you’re going to be really hungry. Once again these work for a short period only; once you start ingesting food again it’s going to come to back.

The sleeping beauty diet, while technically we do lose weight while we sleep, I sure as hell don’t want to be heavily sedated for a few days just for the sake of losing a few kilos. All this achieves is starvation.

When looking around the net for these diets, I was quite shocked at the amount of fad diets. At the end of the day fad diets are not going to work and a majority of them are bad for you in the long run. Rather than jump on the bandwagon of the latest diet, what we need is a lifestyle change not appetite suppressants and laxatives!

Mmmmm… crackling….

I like cooking a roast. They are much easier than they appear to be. When I first started out cooking, I wouldn’t dare cook a roast. They always looked too difficult and how on earth was I supposed to know when it was done (usually when the juices run clear for pork and chicken, beef is a bit different, it depends on how you like it). Today I’m going to show you my version of roast pork. It’s always a big hit in my house.

Cameron loves roast pork and in particular pork crackling, so when his dad came for a visit what better way to feed them on a cold night than with a roast pork!

If you want good crackling dry the skin of your pork with paper towel

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Score the skin. (It doesn’t have to be very deep)

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Drizzle oil, sprinkle with a generous amount of salt and pepper (more salt than pepper), I also added dried mixed herbs as well.

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Place in a preheated oven at 220 degrees for the first 10 minutes and then turn down to 180. Depending on the size of your roast will depend on the length of cooking. Ask your butcher how long to cook it for.

Butchers are great when it comes to how to cook the meat. Just ask them, don’t be embarrassed to ask either. They’re usually more than happy to help and are a great source of tips and tricks! If in doubt however, low and slow is a good choice.

Halfway through cooking (about an hour for me), prepare your vegies. I used carrots, onion, potato and pumpkin. Peel, chop and place in baking tray.

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Drizzle with oil, salt and pepper and place in oven for final half of cooking.

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By this stage, I had forgotten to continue to take photos, but once the meat as finishing cooking, allow it rest. While it is resting, remove the skin and place back into the oven for 5 minutes to create the perfect crackling. I did need to increase the temperature back up to 220 to achieve this.

Once the crackling is done, then it’s time to serve and enjoy your fantastic roast! Well done, I told you it wasn’t that hard!

15 minutes? More like 45 and whole lot of dishes!

I love the food that Jamie Oliver cooks and I love his series on 15 minute meals but when I try to do it, it takes at least 45 minutes. I love the concept that you can cook a meal for a family in such a short amount of time, but it doesn’t always end up this way.

For starters, I don’t have an appliance that slices everything for me so I have to do it by hand.  Second, I can’t chop things that fast so what an appliance can do in a few seconds, takes me probably 10 minutes.

I also don’t have big wooden boards to serve everything on, while they look fantastic, it’s just not an option for me. Where am I going to put them? My kitchen is tiny and I don’t have the money to go out and buy large wooden boards to serve my food on. So while he ends up with practically no dishes, I now have used everything. Thank god for dishwashers!

I guess I’m just not a very fast cook. I always thought that in time my knife skills would get faster, and they did to a certain extent, but I have an issue with pushing it faster. I don’t particularly want to lose a finger!

Now because everything is taking so long I start to get frantic and stressed and the end result? Something that resembles eggs on toast.

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Time to get excited, tomorrows recipes is Roast Pork!